The Island of Lost Girls {Children’s International Film Festival/CHIFF} – Film Review

Three young girls lost at sea fight for survival in the Schmidt family film The Island of Lost Girls.

Directed by husband and wife duo Brian Schmidt and Ann-Marie Schmidt (credited as Ann-Marie Plastino), The Island of Lost Girls stars their three daughters, Avila, Autumn, and Scarlett as orphaned sisters whose spontaneous trip to the beach suddenly goes wrong when all three are pulled out to sea and are marooned in an island cave full of ferocious sea lions, elephant seals, and a quickly rising tide.

Avila, Autumn, and Scarlett are sisters living together with their foster mother. Avila, on the verge of getting adopted, inadvertently loses her chance at leaving with an eager couple when Autumn and Scarlett surprise the prospective parents with all their belongings. To raise their spirits, the girls hatch a plan to sneak out of their foster home spy caper-style and spend the day at the beach building sandcastles and playing in the water.

When Scarlett accidentally gets caught up in a riptide, Autumn, and Avila rush to save her, only to find themselves caught too. With nothing but a stolen surfboard to keep them afloat, the girls soon discover an island teeming with sea life and nowhere else to go.

Surrounded by danger on all sides, the girls learn quickly that the only way through this is to rely on and look out for each other. Avila, burdened by being the eldest, realises that she doesn’t need to sacrifice her childhood for the sake of Scarlett and Autumn despite their circumstances, while the younger two learn that their presence enriches Avila’s life. Shot on location in Baja, Mexico, The Island of Lost Girls includes some beautiful scenery from inside the caves, but the film has an usual yellow colour grading that sadly plays down some of this natural splendour.

Credited as having co-written the film and performed their own stunts, the young Schmidt girls have a lot of chutzpah but not a lot of screen presence. Avila, Autumn, and Scarlett are central to the film and it’s a tough burden to carry, although they do tackle it with enthusiasm.

Considering the girls are real-life sisters, there’s also a surprising lack of chemistry between them, which can surely be attributed to their overall lack of technical skill in front of the camera. In any other movie, this would be a huge red flag. But the fact that The Island of the Lost Girls is a family made kids film means that it isn’t a complete hindrance, although it does make some scenes difficult to sit through. To the girls’ credit, carrying an entire film with very minimal support from adult actors is not an easy feat.

Robotic yet slightly endearing, acting aside, The Island of the Lost Girls also feels far too long. The entire opening sequence and scenes from post-shipwreck could’ve easily been cut to preserve the flow of the story.

Coming in at almost 2 hours, The Island of Lost Girls lags in several sections resulting in a much harder watch than necessary. While there are certainly concessions to be made, The Island of Lost Girls doesn’t leave much of a positive impression.

The Island of Lost Girls is currently playing as part of of the 2023 Children’s International Film Festival (CHIFF) until June 12. For more information and ticketing, visit:
https://www.chiff.com.au/films/the-island-of-lost-girls

Sign up to receive weekly updates on our most recent reviews.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *